I spent nearly a week traveling Route 66 in Oklahoma and I was forever amazed by all the strange and curious things I found (like a round red barn?). Though the Sooner State is only one of eight on Route 66, its attractions are plenty. These are just a few of my personal highlights:
1. Blue Whale, Catoosa, OK
Drive too fast and you’ll do a double-take, “Was that a whale back there?” Indeed it is–Catoosa’s famous Blue Whale was built in 1972 “for fun” by a local zoologist. Fashioned from hand-mixed concrete and painted a bright sky blue, the whale is hollow inside and now serves as a kind of roadside playground (a perfect stop for tired kids stuck in the backseat). They also offer catch-and-release fishing for children.
2. Rock Café, Stroud, OK
Famous for surviving as an independent business and famous for it’s connection to the Pixar movie Cars, the Rock Café is a must-stop on old Route 66. Built from the stone removed when workers first built the Mother Road, the cafe is filled with amazing and authentic Route 66 paraphernalia. The fried pickles aren’t bad either–
When I asked the manager how they cooked the okra, she told me, “We fry it. This is Oklahoma honey, we fry stuff.” Food aside, the best reason to visit Rock Café is to see all the other travelers that come by. More Route 66 travelers stop here than anywhere else I’ve seen, and they come from all over the world.
3. Route 66 Interpretive Center, Chandler, OK
Built in 1937 as a WPA project, this former National Guards Armory is now home to Oklahoma’s Route 66 Association, as well as an amazing interpretive center. With fun and creative interactive media displays, visitors can learn all about the Mother Road. My personal favorite? The 20-minute film from Dick Besser, who drove most of Route 66 as a student in 1959–a rare visual document of the Mother Road.
4. POPS, Arcadia, OK
Like soda pop? What kind? Cherry Cola? How about vanilla? How about bacon, ranch dressing, or spruce beer? Imagine every wild flavor on Earth, and this major roadside attraction serves it in a bottle. Dine at the restaurant, or have fun browsing the shelves that hold more than 600 different flavors of soda pop, then pick out your very own six pack for the road. (I loved this place.)
5. NW 23rd Street, Oklahoma City, OK
Old Route 66 cuts through the heart of Oklahoma’s largest city. Don’t rush by! Take your time going block by block, as you’ll discover all kinds of old treasures on this northern part of town. Grab lunch at Backdoor BBQ, Look for the Baum’s Dairy giant milk bottle and the old mural below. My advice? Park the car and use Spokies, Oklahoma City’s bikes share program.
6. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Clinton, OK
After three weeks and eight states, I’m becoming a bit of a connoisseur of Route 66 museums and in my humble opinion, this one is the best. So if you’re going to just pick one Route 66 Museum, visit the one in Clinton. Artful displays and authentic detail add to the very rich historical narrative that details every aspect of Route 66. In a way, it’s like walking through a biography of the Mother Road. Five stars to Clinton for such a great museum (the gift shop is also top notch).